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Hawaii won’t allow tourists until at least October because of coronavirus surge

A pedestrian walks along a beach in Kaanapali, Hawaii, on the island of Maui. (Mia Shimabuku/Bloomberg News)

Travelers that gambled on planning a trip to Hawaii for later this year may need to rethink their timing. The state has officially delayed its reopening to mainland travelers until at least Oct. 1.

The move replaces a program that was set to allow entry with a negative test on Sept. 1 and comes after a recent surge in coronavirus cases that prompted the state to impose quarantine restrictions on inter-island flights between Kauai, Hawaii Island and Maui.

All residents and non-tourist visitors will continue to be subject to a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine, according to guidelines.

Officials say any potential new reopening date will be announced in advance to allow the islands’ hospitality and tourism staff time to prepare for an influx of visitors. Gov. David Ige (D) made the delay official in a news conference on Tuesday, stating that the state "will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii as well as key markets on the mainland to determine the appropriate start date for the pre-travel [covid-19] testing program.”

This is the second time Hawaii has delayed its reopening to out-of-state travelers in 2020, with reopening plans announced in June originally being pushed back to September.

“We want to welcome back our visitors once our state is ready to do so in a safe manner that will hopefully avoid the need to backtrack in the future," said Chris Tatum, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA). "Once we receive details on the process and requirements from the Department of Transportation and the DOH, we will share that information with the visitor industry.”

The state has also imposed tighter restrictions on gathering sizes in lieu of a broader shutdown. Hawaii’s current total covid-19 case count is at 5,349, with the highest daily spike in new cases hitting 354 on Aug. 13. The death toll is 41. In the early days of the pandemic, Hawaii was widely lauded for its low covid-19 rate and quick containment strategies, with 900 cases occurring before June.

“We cannot deny that Hawaii is seeing a surge in the positive covid-19 cases. ... There are numerous clusters and wide community spread,” Ige said. “With the case count increasing the way it has, it would be very difficult to implement and start the pre-travel testing program on September 1.”

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